Babies are not easy. They're small and fragile, have a lot of needs to meet, and cry when their needs aren't met. But despite this, most babies will grow up to be happy and healthy children (and adults). And if you get through the first few months with your sanity intact, you'll realize that babies are actually pretty predictable creatures!
Some things about them always stay the same: they sleep a lot during the day but need long stretches at night; they have different patterns from one another and even from one day to another. However, for many parents, their infants' sleeping pattern is one of the most travel things to decipher, and many pairs often get things wrong:
Thinking your baby should sleep less or longer.
The first and most common mistake that parents make is assuming that their baby should sleep a certain way. Babies' needs vary wildly depending on their age (and how much they've grown), temperament, and day-to-day life circumstances. For example, an infant teething will need more frequent naps than usual to stay happy and content—but that doesn't mean they need to sleep longer at night.
Waking your baby to feed and changes
If you're a new parent, you may be surprised to learn that waking your baby for feeding and changes is not recommended. In fact, waking your baby up to feed them and change them is associated with increased crying and fussiness in newborns. This can lead to more frequent night wakings and difficulty establishing a consistent sleep routine—which can make it harder for you to get the rest you need too. Plus, your baby will naturally wake up on their own if they feel hungry or want a change. There is no need to wake them.
To ensure that both you and your baby are getting enough sleep, look into feeding schedules that allow babies to wake up on their own at least every four hours. Ensure that you have everything you need when awake, such as having their bottle ready or having a diaper bag (or multiple baby diaper bags if you want to be even more prepared), so you don't have to go back and forth in the middle of the night. If you aren't sure how to create a good sleep routine for your baby, it's worth getting in touch with their pediatrician.
Thinking you have to accept a poor sleeper when they are a good napper.
Thinking that you have to accept a poor sleeper when they are a good napper is a common baby sleep mistake because it can cause unnecessary stress for the parent and baby.
It's important to remember that babies do not always sleep well at night and that it's normal for babies to wake up at least once or twice during the night—even if they're great nappers during the day. So if you are trying to get your baby to sleep longer stretches at night, you should not feel pressured by other parents or friends who say their babies were sleeping through the night at four months old or earlier.
If you're struggling with how to get your baby on track with night-time sleep patterns, try keeping a consistent bedtime routine and putting them down awake (but drowsy) in their crib while they still want to play or nurse. You can also try letting them cry in their crib for a few minutes before going in and comforting them again if they wake up in the middle of the night.
Hopefully, you will recognize your mistakes and how to fix them. Remember that your baby is not a bad sleeper; they just need to be taught how to sleep better. With a bit of research and speaking with their pediatrician, you can help your child to do this.